Leftover Makeover: Pasta

leftover pasta

When I make pasta, I have a tendency to make way, way too much of it.  Two people?  Throw in the full pound!  Throwing a dinner party?  Make everything in the pantry!  Needless to say, there are always plenty of noodles that don’t get eaten.  Leftover pasta is incredibly versatile, though–there are a lot of ways to save you time cooking later in the week if you’re a pasta-holic like me.

But wait!  Before you can use the pasta, you have to know how to store it properly.  Whether it’s angel-hair, fettuccine, or lasagna, it’s a starchy food, and starchy means sticky.  To keep the noodles from gluing to each other, stir margarine in right after you’ve strained the water out. You’ll thank me later.

So, what can you make with leftover pasta?

  • Baked Ziti, or whatever shape pasta you happen to have.  Just mix the noodles with sauce and about a cup of mozzerella in a casserole or baking dish, sprinkle some more cheese on top, and throw in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  The beauty of this dish is that you can mix in other leftovers, like vegetables or meat–it’s a fast and tasty way to clear your refrigerator of all that Tupperware.
  • Soup.  For the simplest soup, boil a pot of water with a bouillon cube or some chicken broth and add pasta.  Instant chicken noodle soup!  Like most of these leftover makeovers, you can really throw in anything you want; having some basic seasonings like basil, black pepper, or parsley can kick things up a notch.
  • Stir Fry.  If you have a frying pan,  some cooked meat, fresh or frozen vegetables, vegetable oil, and some soy sauce, you are good to go.  The recipe?  Toss it all together until it smells good!  You want to make sure that your meat is thoroughly cooked before you add vegetables or pasta, though. If you want chow mein, toss the noodles in when you put in the veggies; if you want lo mein, toss the noodles in towards the end of cooking so they have just enough time to get hot.
  • Chips.  That’s right–you can turn your leftover dinner into snacks! If you are using a short noodle like farfalle or rotelle, you can use this recipe at AllRecipes.com to make crunchy little morsels.  You can use their seasoning suggestions or make up a new flavor–I like to drizzle a little bit of ranch dressing over the pasta about a minute before I am done.
  • More Pasta. No one said you couldn’t just eat the pasta.  Toss on a little sauce, cover it with a paper towel, and put it in the microwave.  Voila!  Dinner 2.0!

Maybe you have some leftover pasta but not enough for everyone you are feeding?  Make more pasta and add the leftovers to the fresh stuff. Unless you’re really worried about appearance, it doesn’t matter if they are different shapes.  Tell your friends you cooked two different noodles on purpose, to add variety.  Tell them it’s a fancy recipe.  Or just tell them how inventive you are with your leftover pasta–either way, you can serve up good meals all week without having to cook fresh pasta every night.

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